The Madness of The Corrections Coming Through.

Over at The Atlantic, author Benjamin Nugent shares a few insights from a re-reading of The Corrections, and how he thought reading Franzen again would be like revisiting a McCartney tune:

I reread The Corrections this year and realized that while I once needed Franzen to be my Paul, an exemplar of old realist virtues like clarity and psychological complexity, he was always more formally adventurous than either I or most book critics understood.

Coincidentally, I’m about 200 pages in my own re-read, and couldn’t agree more (although Paul’s songs were about aesthetic beauty—among the Beatles, only Lennon’s had psychological complexity). What strikes me about this book is how distinct it is from traditional realism, relentless time shifts, quirky perspective changes, and an eye for seemingly unreal detail (as the memorable sentence quoted in the post). The Corrections may not have many of the trappings of what we consider to be the avant garde or at least the more “formally adventurous”—see Jest, Infinite—but it’s not Henry James, either.